Mumbai, Sep 14 (IANS) Hoping to boost the morale of the emaciated Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), its supremo Sharad Pawar will embark on a tour of the state to study the political situation at the grassroots ahead of next month's Assembly elections in Maharashtra, an office-bearer of the party said here on Saturday.
After forfeiting over a dozen prominent leaders, including former deputy Chief Ministers, legislators, parliamentarians and political veterans, Pawar will travel around western Maharashtra and Marathwada, where NCP enjoys a traditional support base.
His tour -- to be held between September 17 and 22 -- will take him to Ahmednagar, Baramati, Aurangabad, Beed, Solapur, Osmanabad, Latur, Nanded, Hingoli, Parbani and Jalna.
At all these places, Pawar will interact with and assuage the bewildered party activists silently witnessing the outflow from the NCP to other parties, mostly the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena coalition, and hope to rekindle their shaken confidence.
Officially, the tour is being described as "mobilising the party workers, prepare the groundwork for the upcoming Aassembly elections, make a first-hand assessment of the ground-level political situation" with the poll dates due to be announced anytime now.
Pawar's tour comes as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' Mahajanadesh Yatra and Yuva Shiv Sena chief Aditya Thackeray's Jan Ashirwad Yatra enter their final phases.
Though the NCP had bagged 41 seats in the 2014 Assembly polls, and won four Lok Sabha seats in 2019, the party stares at a bleak future amid dark predictions by the BJP that the "Baramati family" (Pawar clan) would be decimated by 2024.
On Saturday, the beleaguered NCP was again rattled when its three-time MP from Satara, Udayanraje P. Bhosale, the 13th descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, quit the party to return to the BJP at a high-profile function in New Delhi.
However, its national spokesperson and Mumbai chief Nawab Malik put up a brave front and claimed that the Congress-NCP will wipe out the ruling saffron alliance in the Assembly elections.
Former deputy Chief Minister and Sharad Pawar's nephew, Ajit Pawar, will contest from Baramati, while his grand-nephew Rohit Pawar will stand from Karjat-Jamkhed in Ahmednagar.
As per current indications, while the BJP-Sena will contest as a united front with other allies, the Congress-NCP will fight jointly. Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and its erstwhile ally, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, shall enter the fray separately, while the plans of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is still unclear.
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